[FPSPACE] ***JUNK MAIL*** Remembering Rex Hall
phillipclark at btinternet.com
Tue Jun 1 13:02:36 EDT 2010
It has taken some time before I've felt able to sit down and write something constructive about Rex, something that wouldn't appear to be some random ramblings. So here goes.
A lot of us knew the name "Rex Hall" from his letters which appeared in "Spaceflight" about the cosmonaut teams, crew assignments, etc during the 1970s. Then - thanks to the late Anthony Kenden - January 1980 saw the first "Technical Forum" meeting held by the British Interplanetary Society with the subject being "The Soviet Space Programme". That was the first time we got a chance to put a face and personality to the name. Rex recalled that meeting - which, amongst other speakers, saw Nicholas Johnson fly over from the United States - as being when he was overcome by meeting all of the people who had previously just been names to him.
In those early years "Rex's Roundup" became a feature of these meetings, as he revealed the latest hard information, rumours and downright speculation about the cosmonaut team, who had been on the back-up crew of which mission and such things. His quiet humour was always a feature of those meetings - I know that I was often on its receiving end. In 1988 he announced me as being a "missing cosmonaut" because of a TV still inside what was then the Kaliningrad control centre. Rex was never a technical person and so he used to have hot flushes if he saw "+", "-" or "=", and if ">" appeared he would have to lay down for a while. One year I recall having an overhead which was a "Rex Hall health warning" because some equations were about to follow.
Rex took over as the chairman and organiser of what has evolved into the "CIS and Chinese" meetings which normally happened on the first Saturday of June. He is the only person to have attended all of the meetings - thirty of them!
Going back to those early days in the period 1980-1984, Rex and Lynn, Anthony Kenden and I would raid Collett's bookshop in the West End of London after work, before meeting for an evening in a nearby establishment where alcoholic beverages would flow as we tried to sort out all of the mysteries of the Soviet space programme: who would be flying the next mission to Salyut 6 or 7? - what is that strange Cosmos satellite doing? - are the Soviets trying to intentionally confuse us all?
After the BIS meetings a few of us would adjourn back to Café Lynn et Rex for their speciality omelettes, as we spent the evening mulling over more mysteries of the Soviet space programme and tried to predict what would be happening in the near and long-term. Those were heady and fun days before the Soviet Union decided to tell us everything! Thankfully the tape recordings of those discussions will never surface!
With the demise of the Soviet Union, Rex became a regular visitor to Moscow, visiting places that we could previously only dream of and seeing things that we had never even imagined.
For Rex, the studies of the cosmonaut, astronaut and yuhangyuan teams and the training programmes were a fun occupation. This does not mean that he was not serious about the subject - he was totally serious. But he managed to keep a fairly normal life going as well, while many of us evolved into geeks or whatever.
I am already missing the conversations with Rex, even though they have become less frequent in recent years, and the friendship which he shared. Rex was a true gentleman and we should remember what some obscure writer said many years ago: "When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes." Hopefully the skies will light up for Rex Hall.
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